Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
P, I read your column from last month about digestive health, and I’ve been
taking enzymes, to improve my digestion. I noticed less gas, but my stomach is
upset. Why? George
George, some flatulence
(gas) is normal, as healthy bacteria in your intestine and colon normally
produce gas during the course of “business!” If however, your flatulence is
highly malodorous, or voluminous, then you may need digestive supports. Enzymes
are a form of digestive support, but may not be appropriate for you. You might
need supplemental stomach acid (in pill form) or plant medicines instead.
Enzymes are especially inappropriate if you have ulcers, a weak stomach lining,
or weak barriers between the stomach and the small intestine or esophagus.
Your situation is not uncommon, and well illustrates how getting a holistic
diagnosis by a naturopathic physician, prior to using natural medicines, is the
best way to determine your unique needs.
P, I heard that the herb licorice can sooth stomach ulcers, but my medical
doctor doesn’t recommend it. Why? Melissa
Melissa, licorice (or
Glycyrrhiza) is one of my favorite plant medicines, even though I could never
stand the taste of black licorice when I was a kid. It has many uses besides
being soothing to mucous membranes. For example, licorice is antiviral,
anti-inflammatory, and it has tonifying effects on the adrenal glands (your
“bumpers” to stress). Many medical doctors are often fearful about their
patients using licorice, as they only know about harmful side effects of
licorice (raising blood pressure as an example.) I’ve observed this rarely:
when a patient is either sensitive to licorice, exceeds recommended dosing, or
has high blood pressure or chemical imbalances. At our clinic we always make a
point to communicate with your medical doctor about the natural approaches we
recommend, reasons why, and if any interactions or side effects are expected.
Licorice can help with
ulcers, but if you have high blood pressure, or other health issues, which make
licorice inappropriate, then it should not be the first step. I would
recommend other plant medicines, without the side effects of licorice, to heal
your digestive tract.
P, my doctor has told me I have Irritable Bowel, I should take a fiber
supplement, but that there’s no cure. Can alternative medicine help?
Stephanie, your physician’s recommendation of taking supplemental fiber
is a good idea, and although I recommend my patients get it from food, some
prefer taking a fiber supplement. If you take a fiber supplement, try to find
either ground psyllium or flax, without additional additives, flavors or
colors. This way you don’t get any extra chemicals you don’t need. I don’t
agree with your doctor’s opinion of there being no cure for Irritable Bowel (an
easily stressed digestive system with alternating constipation &
diarrhea). In patients labeled with “Irritable Bowel,” I find it’s a matter of
inadequate investigation. Comprehensive stool and digestive efficiency testing
check for bugs, parasites, yeast overgrowth, low enzyme levels, blood,
antibodies, and many other things which can cause symptoms of “Irritable
Bowel.” Looking for food allergies or sensitivities is also important. Once
your digestive system is working at maximum efficiency, we’ve eliminated any
“bugs” (pathogens) that aren’t supposed to be there, and reduced stress from
food sensitivities, the “incurable” Irritable Bowel
miraculously resolves. If by some rare chance it doesn’t,
multiple plant medicines can do wonders to calm your nervous digestive tract.
Remember your digestive system is what every other organ system in you body
relies. When your digestive system isn’t healthy, you aren’t healthy. Optimal
digestion really is the key to health. Have a great month!
For more information or to schedule an
appointment, please contact the Northwest Center for Optimal Health at (360)